Longitude was the surprise trump card in the pack for last years’ range. As a brand new model (alongside the Tour de Fer) we were cautious of how well they’d be received and undercooked the numbers, selling out too early in the season. Apologies for those we disappointed. What it did show was that there was a healthy number of you out there looking for that versatile bike to take you places –an ethos we’ve tried not to stray too far from with the new 2016 model. Let’s take a look at the who, how, what and why with the new, 2016 model…
The 2016 complete bike will retail for £1199.99srp
Whilst the frameset option in 'Pepper Yellow' will retail for £499.99srp
Changes have been occurring at a rate of knots in the mtb sector. When we first drew up the Longitude nearly two years ago now we designed it as a standard 29er (albeit with 2.4” tyres on 35mm rims) with a long wheelbase and big clearances. The tweaks to make it 29+ compatible happened right at the eleventh hour, just before we pushed the button on production – we had pretty much the prerequisite clearances already and it didn’t need much modification to make it 29+ ready (slightly longer chainstays, etc). We figured there’d be nothing to lose in adding a further string to its already quite versatile bow. Now, you have to remember this was at a time when the concept of 29+ still had that new car smell and tyre options were few and far between (Vee Tire Co’s Traxx Fatty and Surly’s Knard were pretty much the only early options) and 27.5+ was only be talked about in hushed whispers at trade shows, by a few progressive/bonkers (delete as applicable) folk. Fast forward 6 months and with 27.5+ now having firmly arrived on the scene we had some difficult decisions to make with the Longitude…
27.5+ vs. 29+. There's only one way to settle this...
...analysis and debate. A standard 29x2.3” on an average rim measures up about approx. 740mm in OD. A 29+ on accompanying 40+mm rim measures up about 780mm – a difference of well over an inch. This difference in tyre OD has a dramatic effect on trail (more on trail here - http://www.pinkbike.com/news/To-The-Point-Rake-and-Trail.html). As a manufacturer we’re then left in limbo as to whether we choose a headtube angle and fork offset to cater for the standard 29” wheel/tyre combo (at the detriment to 29+ handling), go in favour of the 29+ setup (vice versa – at the detriment of std 29” handling, or pick a middle ground that may compromise both that could potentially leave us with a bad handling bike with either setup. The original Longitude was designed around the as-specced 29x2.4” Conti X-Kings on the 35mm Alex Supra35 rims. With Vee Tire Co.’s Traxx Fatty’s fitted we felt the bike lost a lot of its agility; fine in a straight line, especially when pointed downhill but a little lethargic, slow to accelerate and cumbersome in responding to steering inputs. Enter stage left 27.5+… With an OD much, much closer to that of a standard 29x2.3” you can truly have a bike with a geometry that handles well with both setups, without any compromises (i.e. much more compatible). Not only that, you get the same air volume as the 29+ setup but in a lighter (both rim, tyre and tube), faster accelerating, more manoeuvrable package that that a wider range of folk, especially at the smaller end of the size spectrum, can comfortably fit on without A) needing a step ladder to get on and B) still have a decent amount of standover clearance. The case for 29+ was not looking all that strong, effectively trumped by the new kid on the block. For those wanting to delve deeper on the debate and differences between the two plus wheel sizes, check out the links below…
Hubs, Axles & Boost
So, we’ve decided to go for 27.5+ for all of the above reasons. The simple option would be to add Boost 110/148 thru-axles at either end, right? Well, yes and no. Whilst it would give us the required wider chainline and accompanying chain/tyre clearance, pretty much the only hub options (I’ve seen) are thru-axle (at the moment). Whilst this isn’t such an issue on the front, out back we’ve got our nicecly versatile ‘do-it-all’ horizontal dropout with mech hanger (also with added Rohloff OEM2 plate mounting point for MY16), going to Boost148 at the back would’ve meant the end of that, save going to a complicated and not mention expensive sliding dropout system (or EBB). Not something we really wanted to do. So, we decided to stick with the 135mm QR rear primarily for ultimate drivetrain versatility (conventional geared, singlespeed, Alfine and now Rohloff also) but, as ever things weren’t quite that simple…
We already had weight saving cut-outs on the original waterjet cut dropouts so it wasn’t too much work to re-configure them and add-in the required slot on the non-driveside dropout to shadow the path of the axle on the horiztonal dropout. The 6mm thick plate should be plenty to resist the torque of the Rofloff hub.
Instead of mounting to the rear/lower disc brake tab the, OEM2 axle plate is turned anti-clockwise approx. 90 degrees and the bolt mounts through the tab, sliding with the wheel axle on the horizontal dropout
Clearance Balancing Act
So, sticking with 135mm QR for universal drivetrain options alongside the 27.5+ wheel/tyre combo, the next tricky point was gearing. With us pitching the Longitude as our backpacking/offroad tourer I really wanted to keep the nice wide-range the 40-30-22T triple provided. Alas, a 50mm chainline triple doesn’t play nicely with a full-blown 27.5x3.0” setup, least of all on a 135mm rear spacing. The solution was to opt for WTB’s excellent and slightly smaller Trailblazer 27.5x2.8” mounted onto Jalco’s DD38 rims (38mm ext./33mm int.). The resultant tyre outer diameter measures up about 10mm shorter than a std 29x2.3”, so whilst a little smaller, still a much better match than 29” vs 29+, but crucially measures up at about XX” width, giving just enough chain clearance when in the granny at the front and largest sprocket at the back. And, yes, we realise that one the one hand we’ve wholeheartedly adopted new standards and, on the other, gone well out of our way to avoid them! For those wanting to go the full monty with a custom-build frameset option and 27.5 x 3.0/3.25" tyres, you'll be limited to 1x drivetrain setup or offset 2x options depending on rim/tyre combo used. Fork-wise we built-in plenty of clearance - you'll be hard pushed to push the limits there!
Original spec was for the bike to use CST’s new BFT 27.5x3.0”. Chain clearance was (ahem) a little tight so we opted to swap to WTB’s slightly smaller Trailblazer 27.5x2.8” for a little extra breathing room. The upshot of which is that the Longitude now rolls with TCS tubeless ready tyres.
The WTB's on Jalco's DD38 rim provide just enough chain/tyre clearance with the chain in the granny ring at the front and top sprocket at the back. No need for a Boost148 rear with this tyre/rim combo. A nice balance of width (33mm int./38mm ext.) and weight (555g), especially for a pinned rim, the Jalco's are also tubeless-ready too, meaning valve, sealant and tape are all you need for an easy, affordable tubeless conversion.
Production-spec with WTB's 27.5x2.8" Trailblazer TCS Light (Fast Rolling) fitted to the Jalco DD38 rims. We'll update with studio images as soon as they're through.
The Trailblazer could possibly be the ideal tyre for the Longitude with its' fast, almost continuous raised, flat centre tread for low-rolling resistance and straight-line speed and meaty shoulder block tread for bite in loose corners and off-camber trails. Best of both worlds.
100mm Suspension Corrected Fork
The new fork measures 483mm axle-crown with 51mm offset – i.e. suspension corrected for a 100mm 29”/27.5+ fork. Whilst the non-suspension corrected steel fork handled great, it was somewhat limiting to those tinkers that like to keep adding-on and upgrading parts. The new fork is aluminium, and for a few good reasons… A longer fork obviously needs to be stronger to help resist the increased leverage and forces. Stonger usually equals heavier (either increased fork blade diameter, wall thickness, or both) and with the newly introduced ISO test standard giving forks a particularly hard time of it at the moment, it was looking like they’d need to be even heavier than previously imagined to pass with steel. With aluminium we’ve been able to get the longer fork, add a tapered steerer, pass ISO and still drop weight vs. the original steel fork. But an aluminium fork rides harsh, right? Yes, but with the voluminous 2.8” Trailblazer upfront and the associated lower air pressures, there’s plenty of pneumatic cush to take the sting out of the trail. That’s the simple logic behind our choice for going with an aluminium fork – an ISO passable steel fork at these lengths would’ve been too heavy and detrimental to the way the bike rode – loosing that natural steel spring with stiff and heavy fork blades. As ever, it's adnorned with triple bosses on each leg and raised front rack eyelets which are designed to clear the 27.5+ tyres.
Steel purists may bulk at the sight of the beefy bladed Aluminium fork adnorning the front of the 2016 Longitude but, as ever, it's a carefully considered decsion with sound thinking behind it.
Where Boost did make sense was upfront – the wider 110x15mm spacing not only provides the necessary crown clearance for the 27.5+ setup should you want to go down the suspension fork route (the idea being 100% upgrade-friendly, without needing to buy a new front hub/wheel if adding a suspension fork at a later date), it also makes for a stiffer, stronger, wheel, improving tracking, handing and longevity, especially with the larger forces that come with the contact patch of the 27.5+ tyres.
Boost 110x15 front thru-axle for painless suspension fork future upgrade potential
Free Parable Design Gorilla Cages
We’re bundling the Longitude this year with x2pcs of the excellent Free Parable Design Gorilla Cage. They attached to each fork leg via a traditional triple bottle boss and clever plastic cleats. Easy on, easyoff, they’ll carry up to 1.5kg on each leg of whatever you can fit into their highly adjustable cradle. We have it on good authority that a bottle of wine is a great fit! Don’t just take our word for it, check out the in-depth review here from bearbonesbikepacking.co.uk.
Our thanks on these go to Miles @cyclemiles.co.uk who was kind enough to not only hook us up some samples to try (he's the UK distro for these great products), put us in contact with Free Parable and even helped us negotiate on price. Top man!
Highly adaptable, the Free Parable Design cages will fit 1.5/2L PET bottles, bottle of wine/whiskey, a dry bag full of kit, roll mat, or whatever you can fit in it's highly adjustable velcro webbing.
In moving from a 29"/29+ lto a 29"/27.5+ layout we've been able to reign-in the chainstays somewhat (they now no longer need to accomaodate such a larger diamter tyre/wheel combo). As such the rear chainstays shrink from 458mm to 450mm. Still not super short by any stretch but a little nippier and more responsive than last years' version, yet still plenty long enough to make it a stable, comfortable ride that climbs like a mountain goat. Stack heights are similar to last year - what we've lost in the headtube, we've gained in fork length as are reach measurements. Headangle is steepened by a degree to 69deg. No dropped toptube on here - what we give away in standover clearance we gain in front triangle space (with a view of mounting a frame bag and maximising space).
New Shimano side-schwing frotn deraileur essentially moves allo of the bulk of the shift mechanism from the back (where it often compromised tyre clearance depending on chainstay length) to the side and right out of the way. Another bonus is the 50% reduction in shift force required.
We've lost the seattube bottle boss, dropped the downtube bottle bosses (which now also acts as front derailleur and rear brake routing points) and also added a stealth dropper post port (the complete bike comes with a 31.6-27.2mm shim and 27.2mm seatpost for increased conmfort). We've also kept a traditional seattube cable stop also for those wanting to shift via a top-swing FD.
It still has x2 bottle bosses - we've added some to the underside of the downtube